Friday, September 4, 2009

Letting Go of Little Abbey

Although not quite as hard as leaving her at three months old at a lady's house who did daycare and whom I had only met once before, dropping her off at her first day of preschool was hard enough.

We started weeks before pointing out various schoolhouses and talking about what kids did there. When school started for them, we pointed out all the kids walking to class with freshly minted packs adhered to their backs. Little Abbey was fascinated with all that and kept telling us she was excited to go to school but inside, I wasn't so sure she was ready. In social situations where she is with kids her own age, she hasn't been very socializing. In the past, she has refused to play on a park playground because other kids were playing on it. Once she makes friends, she is fine but not very welcoming to the new kid joining them. This hadn't occurred all the time but often enough to make me suspect she might have a hard time getting adjusted during her first day of school.

Because I'm a single parent during most weeks, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take her full time or would have to find someone to carpool with. As it turned out, the latter of the two was the option that found me and the lady helping out in the driving duties was to pick Little Abbey up in the mornings and take her to school. I was to take them home over my lunch break. But fears on the first day drove me to sneak out and drive towards the daycare where I had planned to park just out of sight so that when things went horribly wrong and the tears and tantrum had started, I could intervene. However, two blocks away, I saw the other mom's van already backing out of the drive. Had Little Abbey gone that easily in a strangers van? Granted our two families had gone out to eat and a playground several nights earlier but still? I made a u-turn and followed behind them to the preschool.

When Little Abbey got out of the van, she was happy to see me. She dutifully donned her backpack and stood next to the other little girl for picture taking. I hadn't thought to bring a camera but had my cellphone in my car so grabbed it and took a couple pictures. As I walked with Little Abbey across the parking lot towards the door, she looked up at me and said, "Daddy, I'm scared." Those three little words just melted my heart and it was all I could do to gather her up and take her away from there. I refrained and told her that it was okay to be scared on the first day of school but that she would soon see that there was nothing of which to be scared.

We walked up the steps, down the hall and into the classroom where a half dozen confused kids were standing near their parents. I helped Little Abbey hang her princess backpack on the wall along with her coat, gave her a hug and watched her as she raced off across the room to find her new friend. She never looked back. The teachers gave me a parting gift of a poem about going to school and a package of Kleenex. Although I didn't need them, I'm sure from experience that they come in handy for some of the kids or parents. I walked out of the school alone leaving my little girl behind.

Two and a half hours later, I arrived in the parking lot and walked over to the outside play area where the kids were running around. Little Abbey looked up, saw me and waved and just continued running around with her new friends. Besides the occasional, "Look at me Daddy," she didn't pay much mind to me or the other kids leaving with their parents. Eventually when it was just down to a handful of kids, I called her over and after donning her backpack, we walked to my car. She was happily telling me all the things that she did at school, the highlights being painting, playing in the beans and eating gummy bears and juice. On the way over to the daycare lady's house, I asked her if she wanted to go back to school and was greeted with an enthusiastic, "Yeah!" I've never been more proud of her.


R. Sherman said...

I don't know what's worse: Leaving them the first time, or seeing their reaction, i.e. normally indifference, when you return. It's all a part of growing up -- for us parents, anyway.


geri said...

Aw, that "Daddy I'm scared" would have been enough for me to take her home hahaha. I laughed at your description on "confused kids". Congratulations on surviving your first day of pre-school. It's great that Little Abbey took to it right away and is able to give you a detailed account too. That's so nice.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I'm going to throw this out there for at least the second time in my life. I don't want to grow up!

Geri - Our preschool took a bunch of pictures during the first day and emailed them to all the parents so that was really nice.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Pre-school is like kindergarten? This is a very sweet post, and glad to know that your little girl is doing so well.

fullfreezer said...

I do think that the first day is much harder on parents than on the children. This year, I've got 2 of my 3 in new schools. One because we moved and one because he just started Junior high. Let me tell you- I'm much more worried about my middle schooler than my 4th grader!
Hang in there- it will get easier.

sage said...

Nice post, Ed. I can't believe she's already in preschool! You're story brings back memories.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Nice post. I survived doing it with six kids. It is always a little nerve wracking (for us), but they survive and thrive.

Beau said...

That was really nice to share, and must have been hard. Those heartstrings are pulled so often. I'll bet you were so proud too. I remember my son always asked me to walk him in to school when I drove him. Near the end of 2nd grade last year, I heard "Hurry up Daddy- I want to catch up with my friends!" He jumped out of the car yelling "Bye!" and ran into the school without even looking back. That was another first time for me... one of many to come.

Ed said...

Mother Hen - Technically, this is pre-preschool for three year olds. They only go two days a week for two and a half hours per day. Next year they go three days a week and then the following year is kindergarten.

Full Freezer - I went to three different schools growing up and you are right, I don't think I ever had a problem.

Sage - She really didn't need to go but we felt that since she doesn't have siblings that it was in her best interest to be around other different kids and learn to socialize with them before she had to in kindergarten.

Three Score - Six kids! Were you superhuman?

Beau - Sign, I know there will be many more to come but I look forward to the proud feeling too and that makes it better.

Philster said...

Kleenex? You're kidding right? I guess I'm inured to this stuff. Three families, 6 kids, 4 step kids, put most of em into school up through high school. I guess this is why Hope Truesby calls me "curmudgeon." grin....